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8.8.10

In the Next Room or, the vibrator play

by Sarah Ruhl

There is a wonderful innocence about this piece. I am discovering that I really love Sarah Ruhl.. She is fast becoming one of my new favorite playwrights! I loved this play - very funny and smart.. the business with the costumes alone, all that buttoning and unbuttoning is very humorous.

Continuing with the hysteria trend (see yesterday's post) Ruhl writes about the influence of electricity on modern medicine. Women diagnosed with hysteria, so almost ALL women in the Victorian age, were treated using a vibrating machine to release their "tensions," and thus their symptoms. The story focuses on a doctor who administers this treatment, his wife, and his patients. While there are many funny moments in the play, the ones that touched me the most were the moments of purity. Dr. Givings (a not-so-subtle name) has one male patient, by the name of Leo. After his date with electricity, Leo says to the doctor's wife:
Look at the snow, out the window. do you not think, Mrs. Givings, that snow is always kind? Because it has to fall slowly, to meet the ground slowly, or the eyelash slowly - And things that meet each other slowly are kind.
A moment that has little to do with the action of the play, but a beautiful one that allows us to see into the soul of his character. He is charming and a romantic and so, naturally, an artist. He says:
I have loved enough women to know how to paint. If I had loved fewer, I would be an illustrator; if I had loved more, I would be a poet. 
What attracts me to Ruhl's writing are those poetic moments. The moments that take a natural situation to the supernatural, that elevate it in some way. I look forward to reading more of her work!

Friday Play-a-day: Jumpers by Tom Stoppard

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